PopMatters is moving to WordPress. We will publish a few essays daily while we develop the new site. We hope the beta will be up sometime late next week.

Toby Lightman: Little Things

Andrew Ellis

Toby Lightman

Little Things

Label: Atlantic
US Release Date: 2004-03-30
UK Release Date: Available as import

To paraphrase the Barenaked Ladies, in music, it's all been done before. Yet, in the sea of homogeneity and mediocrity that is the current music scene, singer-songwriter Toby Lightman proves on her debut release, Little Things, that it is possible to create something new and exciting from classic and contemporary influences.

The 25-year-old New Jersey native's music exudes class and originality in spades, with her material segueing elements of pop, soul, R&B, and rock into one glorious package. More than that, though, Lightman's soulful pop tones stand out like a breath of fresh air in a stale, smoke-filled room.

The first single, "Devils and Angels", perfectly emphasises the typical approach taken on Little Things: bright, busy acoustics, thumping drum programming, and R&B-fused samples behind Lightman's sassy vocals and mesmerising hooks and melodies. It's an irresistible combination that continues on the fabulous "Coming Back to You", a terrific song about continually being drawn to the flame of a past lover.

On a debut album, you only expect such moments of brilliance occasionally, but surprisingly, they are scattered all over the course of the album's 12 tracks like confetti on a churchyard. "Frightened" follows a more traditional pop ballad route, but still takes one or two twists in its journey, while "Front Row" tackles the issue of male groupies in a sophisticated, compelling way. Perhaps one of the most blatantly R&B-flavoured tunes on the album, it's still instantly memorable and embraces some of her classic soul influences most obviously, until she scats impressively in the middle eight. Then the contemplative acoustic number "Everyday" shifts the style of the album once more in expert fashion, until "Don't Wanna Know" shows Lightman's voice drenched in emotion against some delicate and captivating piano and acoustic guitar work.

"Voices" is yet another impressive, groove-laden composition, and like opener "Leave It Inside", has a rockier vibe than Lightman's other material. It could easily have been the choice for first single, along with several other contenders, such is the strength of the material on Little Things.

Lightman has had some high-profile help along the way, with Peter Zizzo (svengali for Avril Lavigne and Vanessa Carlton) producing the album and Nile Rodgers playing guitar on several cuts. Wyclef Jean also worked with Lightman on her demo material, and the talent he undoubtedly saw in those first raw efforts is spectacularly realised on dreamy, atmospheric closing track "Running Away".

It's amazing to think that Lightman only discovered her singing voice by accident and never started writing her own material until she was at college. But with a voice and songwriting talent as captivating and mesmerising as hers, it's clear Little Things could be the start of something very, very big.

Please Donate to Help Save PopMatters

PopMatters have been informed by our current technology and hosting provider that we have less than a month, until November 6, to move PopMatters off their service or we will be shut down. We are moving to WordPress and a new host, but we really need your help to save the site.





How 'Watchmen' and 'The Boys' Deconstruct American Fascism

Superhero media has a history of critiquing the dark side of power, hero worship, and vigilantism, but none have done so as radically as Watchmen and The Boys.


Floodlights' 'From a View' Is Classicist Antipodal Indie Guitar Pop

Aussie indie rockers, Floodlights' debut From a View is a very cleanly, crisply-produced and mixed collection of shambolic, do-it-yourself indie guitar music.


CF Watkins Embraces a Cool, Sophisticated Twang on 'Babygirl'

CF Watkins has pulled off the unique trick of creating an album that is imbued with the warmth of the American South as well as the urban sophistication of New York.


Helena Deland Suggests Imagination Is More Rewarding Than Reality on 'Something New'

Canadian singer-songwriter Helena Deland's first full-length release Someone New reveals her considerable creative talents.


While the Sun Shines: An Interview with Composer Joe Wong

Joe Wong, the composer behind Netflix's Russian Doll and Master of None, articulates personal grief and grappling with artistic fulfillment into a sweeping debut album.


Peter Frampton Asks "Do You Feel Like I Do?" in Rock-Solid Book on Storied Career

British rocker Peter Frampton grew up fast before reaching meteoric heights with Frampton Comes Alive! Now the 70-year-old Grammy-winning artist facing a degenerative muscle condition looks back on his life in his new memoir and this revealing interview.


Bishakh Som's 'Spellbound' Is an Innovative Take on the Graphic Memoir

Bishakh's Som's graphic memoir, Spellbound, serves as a reminder that trans memoirs need not hinge on transition narratives, or at least not on the ones we are used to seeing.


Gamblers' Michael McManus Discusses Religion, Addiction, and the Importance of Writing Open-Ended Songs

Seductively approachable, Gamblers' sunny sound masks the tragedy and despair that populate the band's debut album.


Peter Guralnick's 'Looking to Get Lost' Is an Ode to the Pleasures of Writing About Music

Peter Guralnick's homage to writing about music, 'Looking to Get Lost', shows how good music writing gets the music into the readers' head.


In Praise of the Artifice in George Cukor's 'Sylvia Scarlett'

George Cukor's gender-bending Sylvia Scarlett proposes a heroine who learns nothing from her cross-gendered ordeal.


The Cure: Ranking the Albums From 13 to 1

Just about every Cure album is worth picking up, and even those ranked lowest boast worthwhile moments. Here are their albums, spanning 29 years, presented from worst to best.


The 20 Best Episodes of 'Star Trek: The Original Series'

This is a timeless list of 20 thrilling Star Trek episodes that delight, excite, and entertain, all the while exploring the deepest aspects of the human condition and questioning our place in the universe.


The 20 Best Tom Petty Songs

With today's release of Tom Petty's Wildflowers & All the Rest (Deluxe Edition), we're revisiting Petty's 20 best songs.

Joshua M. Miller

The 11 Greatest Hits From "Greatest Hits" Compilations

It's one of the strangest pop microcosms in history: singles released exclusively from Greatest Hits compilations. We rounded 'em up and ranked 'em to find out what is truly the greatest Greatest Hit of all.


When Punk Got the Funk

As punks were looking for some potential pathways out of the cul-de-sacs of their limited soundscapes, they saw in funk a way to expand the punk palette without sacrificing either their ethos or idea(l)s.


20 Hits of the '80s You Might Not Have Known Are Covers

There were many hit cover versions in the '80s, some of well-known originals, and some that fans may be surprised are covers.


The Reign of Kindo Discuss Why We're Truly "Better Off Together"

The Reign of Kindo's Joseph Secchiaroli delves deep into their latest single and future plans, as well as how COVID-19 has affected not only the band but America as a whole.


Tommy Siegel's Comic 'I Hope This Helps' Pokes at Social Media Addiction

Jukebox the Ghost's Tommy Siegel discusses his "500 Comics in 500 Days" project, which is now a new book, I Hope This Helps.

Collapse Expand Reviews

Collapse Expand Features

PM Picks
Collapse Expand Pm Picks

© 1999-2020 PopMatters.com. All rights reserved.
PopMatters is wholly independent, women-owned and operated.